If you know me, you know that plants fascinate me, especially the ones that are edible.
I have always been a fan of exotic plants that very few people know of, and ice cream beans are one of them.
Ice cream beans are not very common. Very few people are familiar with them. The origin of ice cream beans ranges from Mexico in the north to the Amazon rainforest in the south.
Currently, ice cream bean trees are grown in tropic and sub-tropic areas all over the world. The trees do well in warm climates and places that have lots of sunshine. Their canopies are dense and they grow really fast.
These beans are (obviously) from the legume family. The legume family is very diverse. There are over 20,000 species in the world.
Tropical countries tend to have lesser spotted members of the legume family that have delicious but strange-looking fruits. Ice cream beans are one of them.
Ice cream beans are harvested from the ice cream bean tree. The tree produces bean-like pods that are cylindrical in shape.
The pods can grow up to two meters in length. The longest that I have ever seen was 2.07m in length.
Inside the pod, there are large purple-black seeds that are embedded in a translucent pulp. Both the seeds and pulp are edible.
The tasty pulp of ice cream beans is produced by the seeds themselves. The seeds usually have a hard seed coat that protects the embryo. The embryo needs protection from hoards of seed-eating critters and harsh elements.
Ice cream beans are as tasty as the name suggests. The flavor is very similar to that of vanilla ice cream. This is the reason why they are called ice cream beans.
First time I tried ice cream beans I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they are. The pod is basically a candy bar that grows on trees.
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How to eat ice cream seeds
Eating ice cream seeds is pretty simple. Just nibble a hole in at one end and then strip it off the same way you strip your socks.
The purple-black embryo is the sweet treat that you should enjoy. The embryo has a dark color on the outside and is green on the inside.
Considering their sweet irresistible taste, ice cream beans are very popular in south and central America. Most people eat them raw.
During the tropical season, birds and monkeys feast on the ice cream beans pulp and scatter the seeds.
Ice cream bean trees
Other than producing ice cream beans, the trees have several other uses. Like other members of the legume family, the trees introduce nitrogen to the soil from the air. Consequently, the root nodules act as fertilizer and improve soil fertility.
The trees are commonly used as shade trees for coffee, cacao, tea, vanilla, and pepper plantations. This is because they have very dense canopies that grow at a fast rate. Other than that, ice cream beans are a very good source of timber.
Ice cream bean flowers are also amazing. They are nocturnal flowers so they are only open at night and wither in the morning.
They are arranged in inflorescences and are bright white in color. An interesting fact is that bats pollinate these flowers.
The leaves of ice cream bean trees are also large and dark green in color. They are normally oval in shape.
Heath benefits of ice cream beans
- Aids in weight loss
The ice cream beans are very low in calories yet they have a distinct flavor that is similar to that of vanilla ice cream. I can use it as flavoring if you are watching your weight.
Ice cream beans also leave you feeling full for much longer and prevent excessive appetite consequently helping you lose weight.
- Good for your eyes
The beans contain vitamin A which helps in the maintenance of healthy eyes. Research has shown that eating ice cream beans on a daily basis can improve your vision.
- Cures high cholesterol
Ice cream beans can arguably cure high cholesterol. All you need to do is incorporate ice cream beans into your diet and reduce your intake of red meat.
- Good source of calcium
Ice cream beans contain calcium which is essential for strengthening the body’s bones.
- Cures constipation
Several people have reported that ice cream beans cured their constipation. Research has shown that it smooths out the digestive system.
- Good for your digestive system
Ice cream beans are rich in chymotrypsin and trypsin which convert proteins to amino acids hence the nutritional benefit of food is easily extracted.
In case you are skeptical about tasting ice cream beans, this is your cue to try.
Ice cream beans have a sugary flavor that resembles the flavor of vanilla ice cream. Try them today, you won’t regret it.